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September: 18 albums you need to hear this month

Get this month's LPs in you now

  • Mixmag Crew
  • 1 September 2017
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Bicep 'Bicep' (Ninja Tune)

Belfast duo Bicep have touched on many aspects of dance history as bloggers, re-editors and, of course, as global DJs. For much of their debut album, though, they’ve zoomed in on one short period in the past: circa 1989-92, when Balearic, rave, trance, electronica and prog-house still massively overlapped, all part of the same quest for sonic euphoria. There’s no laptop micro-trickery here; everything is drum machine or breaks, bass, warm pads and layers of melodic synth riffs. As the album goes on it occasionally moves forward in time to 2-step and backwards to synth-pop, electro and new age, but at its core are the same fundamentals. Given the energy of their sets, it’s surprisingly dreamy and thoughtful at times (see lead single ‘Aura’, which radiates pure white light) and full of the yearning and bittersweetness of the best post-rave sunrise moments. Most of all, it’s laser-focused in the pursuit of pleasure, and makes absolute sense as a complete album. Joe Muggs

9/10

Photay 'Onism' (Astro Nautico)

Woodstock boy Evan Shornstein’s solo debut as Photay muses on a person’s place within their environment. Gorgeous and textured, this album of percussive and jazz-infused tracks exists at the break of a desire for nature in an irrevocably technological era. Escapist but also sentient of its reality rooted in electronic music, it was recorded in both the urban milieu of Brooklyn and the young producer’s home in the Hudson Valley woods. That tension comes through not only in the album’s titles – ‘Storms’, ‘Screens’ and ‘Eco Friend’ – but in the tone of the tracks, where at one moment a song delves deep into an urgent, synthetic cadence, and then expands into an ambient sense of the vast beauty of the physical world. S Kretowicz

7/10

James Heather 'Stories From Far Away On Piano' (Ahead Of Our Time)

Simplicity and intricacy combine on James Heather’s debut album. He joins the burgeoning ranks of post-classical artists with just a piano for company. It proves a mighty weapon, capable of supreme tenderness and yet, tonally, hugely powerful. Heather – whose day job at Ninja Tune finds him handling PR for the likes of Actress and Wiley – is a storyteller: his instrumental tracks are inspired by real events, from historical incidents like Boer War concentration camps (the heartbreaking intensity of ‘Empire Sounds’), to contemporary tragedies, like a female blogger in Syria murdered by ISIS (the beautiful ‘Ruqia’). There’s a rawness to Heather’s songs that match the emotions of their subject matter. S Worthy

7/10

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